The use of substitute players in County Championship cricket came into focus at Hove again recently when Middlesex fast bowler Steve Finn was allowed to join the game against Sussex on the second day after he had been left out of England’s team for the Lord’s Test against Australia.
Finn promptly took two wickets with his first seven balls.
But Sussex have also profited too from the use of a substitute, most memorably back in 2003 when the regulation was first introduced. With James Kirtley on England duty at Lord’s, Sussex played Kevin Innes in the game against Nottinghamshire at Horsham and on the second day he became the first ‘substitute’ to score a hundred.
Innes, who had signed for Sussex from Northamptonshire the year before, made an unbeaten 103 before the county declared at lunch, by which time Kirtley had been deemed surplus to requirements by England and was heading back to Sussex. Innes returned to 12th man duties content that he had a place in cricket history.
“It was like a club cricketer’s dream,” he remarked afterwards. “Someone in the dressing room said you could get a hundred and then put your feet up, which sounded great," he explained. "I never thought it would happen, and now I'm quite happy to let James go and have a bowl.”
Ironically, Innes might not have got his hundred had the start of the Test at Lord’s been delayed by rain for an hour. Kirtley would have made it back in time to bat instead.
Innes had his footnote in the history of Sussex’s first Championship-winning season. He left the county at the end of the 2004 summer, played minor counties cricket for Bedfordshire (including the last game Sussex played against a minor county) before returning to Northamptonshire as a cricket coach.